Shannon Stewart

Interview: Tahni Holt talks about ‘Rubble Bodies’

Veteran Portland choreographer Tahni Holt discusses life after a collapse in her new dance

Rubble Bodies brings up the possibilities for me of something after a collapse, where we don’t actually know how it’s organized yet,” Portland choreographer Tahni Holt told me over coffee last week as we talked about her new dance. This idea she said, “gives me freedom and curiosity about how to combine things in interesting ways that aren’t habitually organized in my body at this particular moment in time.”

Holt has been working on Rubble Bodies since 2015. Originally a solo called Apples and Pomegranates, it is now a group work-in-progress in collaboration with composer Luke Wyland, visual artist Elizabeth Malaska, New Orleans trombonist Willis Ross, singer Holland Andrews, and dramaturg Kate Bredeson. Although Holland is part of the work, she will not be performing in this weekend’s show, though she will take part in the work’s official premiere in the winter.

Holt is a choreographer and founding director of FLOCK Dance Center here in Portland, and she has been creating performances, programing and teaching for the past 19 years.

Rubble Bodies will share the bill with New Orleans-based Shannon Stewart this weekend at Performance Works NW/Linda Austin Dance. (I also interviewed Stewart about her work Relatives, which you can read about here.)

“Rubble is this amazing word,” Holt observed. “It brings up this very strong image of all these bits and pieces. When I think about this work and what I’m manifesting, it’s a lot of bits and ways of imagining the materiality of my body.”

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DanceWatch Weekly: A dance that can be whatever it wants to be

Shannon Stewart talks about the 3-year process that her dance "Relatives" has gone through

“Honestly, the real reason for this production is because I wanted to get Shannon Stewart here (in Portland) again,” said Portland choreographer Tahni Holt when we met for coffee last week at Posies Bakery & Cafe in NE Portland. “She’s just a power house. She’s an amazing choreographer, and teacher, and a very dear colleague of mine.”

New Orleans-based Stewart’s Relatives and Holt’s newest work-in-progress, Rubble Bodies, will share the stage this weekend at Performance Works NW/Linda Austin Dance. The two pieces are in conversation with each other Holt said.

“So many of our ideas—what we think about, and what we are working on—are on similar paths,” Holt says. “We are at similar points in our lives, and we’re similar ages” she continued. “I think that they will be really amazing pieces to see together and hers (Stewart’s) is an incredibly complicated, rigorous piece, that you get a bit lost in the meditation of it and the consistency of it. The dedication she brings to that hour—and the fierceness—is really amazing. I’m very excited to bring that piece to this community. I want this community to show up for it because I think it’s a really important work to see.”

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Risk/Reward Festival review: value proposition

Annual showcase takes audiences on the journey from artistic concept to realization

Here’s the deal with Portland’s annual Risk/Reward Festival. Artists take a risk by trying something new, often a segment of a work in progress, in a forum where audiences expect various levels of development. Audiences take a risk on new, unvetted work. The reward for the artists: audience feedback, a deadline to get work going, some ideas about how to proceed. For audiences: the thrill of seeing new, sometimes experimental work aborning — and this year, at whatever price they want to pay. More than ever, that deal is a real bargain.

Now in its 10th year, this year’s festival risked one filmed and five staged contributions, and produced as many different outcomes: a concept that seemed promising but the execution shaky, or simply incomplete; another that felt conceptually underdeveloped; another that seemed overextended — and one glorious creation that brought together a powerful concept with an exceptionally moving performance.

Linda Austin Dance’s ‘A world, a world.’ Photo: Chelsea Petrakis.

You could spot the driving concept for Linda Austin’s A world, a world on the floor, in the music, even on the dancers’ bodies: collage. Both costumes and floor design resembled a scattering of fragments, and the dancers “produce a constant low-level, barely or sporadically decipherable humming, mumbling, and singing of a textual collage from news headlines, songs & poetry, periodically going to headphones mounted on a movable step unit, to receive and channel sound bites referencing the worlds of politics, pop culture, ‘high’ culture, science and philosophy, riffing on these sound bites until they need another ‘hit.’” Austin’s program note explains. What showed up on stage was strolling dancers forming then abandoning various groupings and formations, gestures falling in and out of group coordination, while chanting random snippets of songs and other pop culture ephemera that elicited occasional chuckles of recognition.

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DanceWatch Weekly: Before the year ends, meet Katie Scherman

The dance schedule this week is busier than you might expect with "Nutcrackers," "Dancing With the Stars!" and other more experimental concerts filling the calendar

Happy Holidays, Happy Solstice, Happy Hanukkah, Happy Kwanzaa, Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year. I’m saying all that now because this DanceWatch Weekly will be the last one of 2016. Here’s to a happier, healthier 2017.

But, before I go, I would like to introduce you to Portland dance artist Katie Scherman (2016 Alembic Resident Artist at Performance Works NW) who will be debuting Complicated Women, a work that explores the experience of being female, in all of its complexities. It opens Thursday night at Performance Works NW, Linda Austin Dance.

Scherman, who is originally from California, performed with Houston Ballet II, The Washington Ballet Studio Company, Trey McIntyre, Hubbard Street 2, Alonzo King’s LINES Ballet, Central California Ballet, Terpsicorps Dance Theatre and BodyVox to name a few, graduated from Alonzo King’s LINES Ballet/Dominican University with a BFA in Dance and received her MFA in Dance from the University of Oregon.

In 2008 she was nominated for an Isadora Duncan Award for Best Ensemble, and in 2009, she was honored with a Princess Grace Award in Dance.

Her choreography has been presented in Oregon, California, Colorado, Montana, Washington, Utah, and Chicago.

Scherman now lives in Portland, where she teaches, choreographs and performs. I was able to speak with Katie via email about her life in dance.

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